What is budget discharge?
The annual discharge procedure allows the European Parliament and the Council to hold the Commission politically accountable for the implementation of the EU budget. The European Parliament decides, after a recommendation by the Council, on whether or not to provide its final approval, known as 'granting discharge', to the way the Commission implemented the EU budget in a given year. When granted, it leads to the formal closure of the accounts of the institution for a given year.
When deciding whether to grant, postpone or refuse the discharge, the Parliament takes into consideration the integrated financial and accountability reporting prepared by the Commission along with the European Court of Auditors' Annual Report on how the budget has been spent and any relevant Special Reports.
During the discharge procedure, relevant Commissioners reply to written questions from the Committee on Budgetary Control (CONT) of the European Parliament and appear in the committee for an exchange of views (‘Hearings’).
For the financial year N, the Commission and the European Court of Auditors publish their key reports in year N+1, allowing the Parliament to take the decision on discharge in the first half of year N+2. This decision is accompanied by the Parliament's views and its requests to the Commission.
The Commission reports on its follow-up on the requests made by the Parliament and the Council during the discharge procedure.